The Seat that Decides the Senate

It’s still there in my calendar. Sunday April 7 – leave Melbourne. That day I got in my car and drove 650km from Carlton, Victoria, to Cook, ACT. On the 8th, I began work on Simon Sheikh for the Senate.

Then, I thought I was making a noble sacrifice. When I imagined what it would be like, it was overwhelming and it was exhausting. It wasn’t necessarily enjoyable. But I thought it would be worth it.

I was wrong. It was wrong to characterise this as a sacrifice, because volunteering on Simon Sheikh’s campaign for the ACT Senate has made it possible for me to use my time and my skills in the most effective way possible. I know I’m doing the most important thing I could be doing. There is no greater reward.

So, let me say in no uncertain terms: you too should come to Canberra and volunteer on this campaign.

Abbott’s election would undermine climate action globally

There is a litany of reasons not to vote for Abbott: his misogyny, his economic policies, his homophobia, his populism…. My reason? I hate how his election would undermine the global fight against catastrophic global warming.

Abbott has made a “blood oath” to repeal the carbon price. If he becomes Prime Minister and gets control of the senate, then he could do just that. This would be a huge setback for Australia.

Repeal would threaten the accelerating development of clean, safe sources of energy that never run out, like wind power, solar photovoltaics, and baseload solar thermal. Repeal would encourage the metastasis of industrial fossil fuel extraction, which is already besieging Australia’s farmland, forests, and coast, poisoning our water and polluting our air. Repeal would give a season pass to Australia’s wealthiest polluters to keep using the atmosphere as their dumping ground.

So it would be pretty bad news for Australia. It would also – and this is the thing – be terrible news for the rest of the world.

Not terrible news just because Australia is one of the worst polluters per capita. Not terrible news just because our fossil fuel exports fuel climate change all over the world. Terrible news because it would be a scary example to governments all over the world who see Australia as an example to follow.

Australia’s carbon price didn’t just change the game in Australia, it changed the game internationally. It demonstrated how a government could show leadership on climate change, how a government could act. After all that has past, if the ALP is decimated and the carbon price is repealed, it would threaten climate action in the rest of the world.

I don’t want Australia to be an example to the world of the political costs of acting on climate change. Unfortunately, under Abbott, that’s what we would become. So something has to be done.

So whatcha gonna do? There are fewer than 100 days until the election. How will you best use each day to make sure Tony Abbott doesn’t get elected?

Campaigning for Simon Sheikh’s election is our best hope

Let’s cut to the chase. We can give up on the lower house for now: months of polling indicate that you are wasting your time to try to stop Abbott getting a majority there. Our best option is to stop the Coalition from seizing power in the upper house.

To be able to do most of what they want, the Coalition needs 39 senators on their side (including conservative minor party senators and possibly SA’s Nick Xenophon). With 75 voting senators, the Coalition needs 38 votes, so they need to have 39 senators. (This is because the Coalition loses 1 senator to the role of speaker.) In 2013, 36 state senators elected in 2010 will not face re-election. 36 other state senators, and 2 from each territory, are in the running.

The Coalition currently has 34 senators and could likely obtain the support of Senators Xenophon and Madigan, giving them 36 votes. Antony Green argues they are likely to pick up seats in SA and Tasmania, giving them a total of 38. Remember, we have already reasonably concluded that Tony Abbott is going to take over the House of Representatives. At this point, if he gets an additional seat in the Senate there are no limits to what he could do.

I’ve broken down these numbers in the table below and highlighted the significant contests.
SenatorResults2In WA, judging by the result of the most recent state election, it’s possible a conservative minor party senator could snake a seat from the Greens. In this case, 4 conservative senators would be elected, not 3. So the WA result is pretty important.

Green’s post also notes, “only the ACT battle with the Greens…would put current Coalition seats at risk.” In this, he is correct. The ACT has only two seats and has a quota of 33.3%. It typically elects one Labor senator and one Coalition senator. However, in 2010, the Liberals won only 33.35% of the vote. If a mere 38 voters had voted differently, or a couple more hundred people had been enrolled, the Liberals would have been reliant on the preferences of others to get their seat.

By a quirk of electoral math, the balance of power for the next parliament could be decided by a mere handful of voters in an often-overlooked territory. In ACT, every vote counts. Thus, on this campaign, every volunteer counts.

Get pro-ACTive

The senate results in WA and ACT will determine the balance of power in the upper house. At least one of these races must come out in the Greens’ favour in order to stop Abbott’s extreme agenda.

Why ACT then?

I don’t know what’s happening in WA so I can’t do a point-by-point analysis. What I do know is that the ACT Greens campaign is astonishingly smart, well-targeted, and well-planned. The campaign is a model for best-practice 21st century grassroots campaigning. We not only know how many voters we need to persuade, we know what areas they live in and what messages will shift their vote. We have a hell of a plan. We also have a hell of a team working on it, bringing not just inexhaustible energy, but a wealth of experience in campaigning, organising, and activism. Each person in this team had to answer the question: why ACT? And each person found the answer: because there’s nowhere more important right now.
a group of people who have been doorknocking with simon sheikh for the senate act greens campaign
I know, if we can pull it off, we can win. But I don’t know if we can pull it off. I don’t know if we can mobilise enough people to knock every door we need to knock, to have a strong presence at every community event, to make sure the people of Canberra are hearing about Simon Sheikh in the news, in the shopping centres, and on their front doorsteps.

I’m writing this as if I’m asking you something, but actually, I’m telling you something. I’m telling you this is the closest senate race in the country, and that your volunteering on this race could be the difference that keeps the Senate safe from Abbott. I’m telling you that, if you want to make the most of the remaining 100 days until the election, helping this campaign is the most important thing you could be doing. We’ve got the best tools, the best analysis, a hell of a candidate and a hell of a team. Now we need more volunteers.

You could come up in your uni holidays. You could come up for the final few weeks before September 14. You could say, fuck it, this is too important to ignore, and come join in (as I have done) for a longer stint.

The only thing worse than Abbott having complete control is knowing that you could have played a part in stopping Abbott having complete control…and didn’t. This election, you can play a part. Join us.

One Response to “The Seat that Decides the Senate”

  1. What if the liberals nominate a non-conservative member as speaker to gain a voting majority?

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